I took the family to Bellingrath Gardens this weekend. Visiting the gardens was a bucket list item for me. I grew up in Pensacola and remember hearing about the gardens and the annual azalea bloom. When I lived in Mobile, I never took the time to visit.
It was not the ideal day to visit the gardens, but having made the trip, we still went. Recent rains have beat down some of the azaleas. It is overcast and a little windy today. I was a little cold as we walked through the gardens, but I was not uncomfortable. We warmed up by touring the conservatory and the home. The azaleas were probably at their peak last weekend, but the gardens were still colorful.
The house was impressive. The architect, George B Rogers did a wonderful job incorporating the unique features of the site to build a comfortable house for its time. The house was before air conditioning and located next to a river, where biting insect would need to be considered.
The house is furnished as a museum and not as the Bellingraths’ would have lived in it. Bessie enjoyed collecting porcelain and the house was decorate with some very beautiful pieces. The dining room tables were all set as if expecting guest The main dining room was impressive and decorated with mirrors, gold, and red curtains.
The gardens began in 1927 when, after a trip to Europe, Walter and Bessie Bellingrath hired architect George B Rogers to convert Walter’s fishing camp into a country estate. In 1935 the couple built a 10,500 square foot home on the property. It is all spectacular to see.
Bessie Bellingrath died in 1943, 12 year before her husband. Walter created a trust for the house and gardens “as a fitting and permanent memorial to my wife.”
Walter was a very successful businessman. In 1903, Walter purchased the Coca-Cola franchise for Mobile, AL for $1,500. I’m certain that, at the time, that was a large investment. I was intrigued by Walter’s success and purchase a biographical book about him in the gift shop. It should be an interesting read.
I’m happy we made the trip and that I’ve finally been to Bellingrath Gardens. It is a very nice botanical visit and the staff maintains it beautifully. I came for the azaleas and was not disappointed, despite the less than perfect weather. I suspect that all year round the staff keeps the grounds colorful with seasonal flowers. I won’t make a special trip to visit again, but If I’m in the areas and have the time, I will come to see what is in bloom.